Ashes to Go: Taking Church to the Streets

Ashes to Go: Taking Church to the Streets

February 8, 2016 by

This Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter. Many churches celebrate with the traditional Ash Wednesday service, where ashes are dabbed on foreheads in a ceremony reminding parishioners that we come from dust and to dust we shall return.

But that message doesn’t have to be limited to our sanctuaries. Some churches are taking the traditional Ash Wednesday service to the streets.

Instead of waiting for people to come learn about the gospel, the church needs to go and do.

Ministry on the Go

“Ashes to Go is about bringing the important traditions of our faith out from behind church walls and into the places we need them every day,” says Emily Mellott, pastor of Calvary Episcopal Church in Lombard, Ill.

Started in 2010, Ashes to Go is a nationwide event where congregations go to street corners, bus stops or coffee shops to distribute ashes. Whether people are on their way to work or buying a latte, they could be greeted by someone with ashes in their hand and a smile on their face, with a ready reminder of our need for grace and God’s healing power in this world.

“As people get busier and busier, we need the church in new and non-traditional ways,” says Mellott. “The people who accept ashes on the street are often people longing to make a connection between their faith and the forces of daily life, and Ashes to Go helps them feel that connection.”

Ashes to Go may sound unconventional to some, but it’s bringing the ministry of the church to people who might never come to church. It provides an opportunity for people with busy schedules to come for a moment of stillness, reflection, prayer and, hopefully, repentance.

How Will You Go?

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells us to go forth and make disciples of all nations. Not every church celebrates Ash Wednesday, but Ashes to Go is just one reminder that there are many ways the church can seek out people and be present in our communities.

Instead of waiting for people to come learn about the gospel, the church needs to go and do. By offering community and fellowship in places where people don’t expect it, the church can be more than just a building visited on Sundays. It can be a walking, living, breathing sanctuary.

Photo by Stephen - 10on12.
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Ruthie Flaa


Ruthie Flaa is a college student trying very hard to survive her final semester before graduating in the spring. She enjoys writing so much that she’s majoring in it.
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